Research Meeting 1: “Archives and Libraries”

19-22 October 2017

Participants (left to right):
top row: Cornelia Sollfrank & Felix Stalder (CC research project);
middle row: Annette Mächtel (UdK, Berlin), Annet Dekker (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Paul Keller (Kennisland, NL), Jan Gerber (0xdb.org), Rahel Puffert (Universtität Oldenburg), Marcell Mars (Memory of the World);
bottom row: Shusha Niederberger (CC research project), Olga Goriunova (University of London), Sebastian Lütgert(0xdb.org), Anna Calabrese (UdK, Berlin), Dusan Barok (Monoskop.org), Tomislav Medak (Memory of the World), Sean Dockray (aaaaarg.fail).

Venue: Hek (House of electronic Arts, Basel)

Report

The research meeting opened with a public talk by Olga Goriunova (Reader in Digital Culture,  University of London). She started by revisiting her concept of “organizational aesthetics”, that is, the relationship between the construction of the online platform (or any other production/exhibition space) and the kinds of processes and art works that are produced and made public through it. She then extended this perspective to the relationship between the commons and art practices, in particular the changing social roles and subject positions (beyond the classic triple of artists, curator and audience) that the commons creates. She focused on the audience which is transformed even when not actively participating, introducing the notion of the “lurker”, a figure from online culture, denoting people who are subscribed to a forum or a mailing list, but only read and never actively post something, even though the technical set-up would not only allow but invite to do so. Rather than seeing this a negative, passive aspect Goriunova focused on the active role of producing a context in which posting and debating comes meaningful to begin with. The horizon of the commons, then, is not the naïve vision that everybody becomes a producer, but an expanded notion of what production is in the networked context and of keeping the hurdles low to move between different subject position within a continuum.

The two-day workshop, a mix of discussion in the plenary and focused working groups, started with a review of the artistic projects. They were all concerned with how to deal with large numbers of cultural works in the context of three interrelated crises: commercialization, copyright and cultural production. Commercialization, so the widely shared view, has been leading to a flattening of the cultural landscape by over-promoting a small types of works and undervaluing the large majority of culture, to the point of removing it from circulation. Copyright, with its peculiar notions of authorship and ownership, and the burdensome process of “clearing” rights for reuse, makes it exceedingly difficult to experiment with new ways of using digital information, particularly for established cultural institutions. Hence the need for artist not only to think about it, but to develop actively new forms. This was also motivated by what was seen as  crisis of cultural production, which created a need to develop new ways of interacting with very large numbers of material (rather than a small number of canonical/auratic works) which many of these projects had worked with and, second, with the need to develop new narratives that express and make visible cultural relationship across and beyond the disciplinary and geographic categories that dominated cultural discourse after WII.

All projects tried to address these three interrelated crises in different ways, while common themes emerged during the meeting. Against the concept of ownership with its associated ideas of exclusivity and control, notions of care and custodianship were proposed developed, both theoretically and practically.

The need to navigate a broken copyright regime has been a pressing issue for many years for most of the projects; the approaches ranged from intensive, long-term lobbying at the European level on behalf of memory institutions, to dealing cooperatively with open-minded rights holders (mainly small press publishers) who increasingly understand the value of the open access archives to produces a cultural context in which their works find an audience, to approaches to more or less simply ignoring copyright. There was an understanding that copyright limits urgently needed experimentation to find the right form for archives and institutions in the digital context, where the differences between the catalogue and the work, between meta data and data increasingly blurs.

A second major theme was the transformation of what started often as individual (art) projects into infrastructures that many people ome to depend – some projects have more than 150’000 registered users. Different approaches were discussed, ranging from technical solutions (such distributed files systems (DAT)), to inter-generational (handing over the project to a new generation) and institutional approaches (decentralization and multiplication of archives).

The third major theme focused on the relationship between institutional forms, community and changing subjectivities. These projects show that archives and libraries in the digital context, when allowed to move beyond their historical institutional form, look very different. Production and preservation become mutually constitutive and the notion of care extends from the archivist/librarian to the user, which brings them into a new relationship (commoners) centring round the concern for a resource (commons) and a range practices (commoning) aimed at sustaining care. Not all participants were equally at ease with framing their activities as commoning, pointing towards a tendency in the commons discourse of glossing over differences and idealizing consensus harmony.

This third cluster of concerns in particular laid important groundwork for the next two research meetings.

Interviews conducted with participants

Producing Organizational Aesthetics, with Olga Goriunova

The Practice of Sharing Knowledge, with Sean Dockray

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, with Dušan Barok

Expanding Cinema, with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber

Caring for the Public Library, with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak

Research Meeting 3: Tools and Infrastructures

13-16 September 2018

Participants (from left to right):
top row: Shusha Niederberger (CC research project), Urban Sand (openki.net), Femke Snelting (constant Brussels), Felix Stalder (CC research project), Mauricio O’Brian (goteo.org), Spideralex (feminist infrastructures), Panayotis Antoniadis (mazizone.eu / nethood.org)
front row: Eva Weinmayr (AND publishing), Michael Murtaugh (constant Brussels / Etherbox), Cornelia Sollfrank (CC research project), Daphne Dragona (Berlin), Lioudmila Voropaj (HFG Karlsruhe), Alessandro Ludovico (neural magazine)

Venue: Hek (House of electronic Arts, Basel)

Report

The evening before the workshop, the talk of cultural theorist and curator Daphne Dragona opened the topic of artistic practise and infrastructure in commoning processes. She discussed the term of the commons as a means of relationship (Virno, Negri/Hart, Harney/Moten), and referred to the concept of „affective infrastructures“, as proposed by Lauren Berlant. For her, the process of commoning of infrastructures both involves the network infrastructure as a commons, and the commons (affects, desires, habits) as conceptual infrastructures. This double side of infrastructural commons means that they help building communities, while in the same time are realising a common desire. Daphne Dragona introduced several artistic positions in the field along the lines of community networks, feminist / queer technologies, and technologies of kinship. She highlighted four aspects of commoning in artistic practise: first, the importance of commoning as a practise, which is often against the logic of the artwork in its involvement of other parties, and the relations being built across difference and constraints. Second: these practises always embrace communication of knowledges, in the form of exchange, shared learning situations, workshops, etc., paying attention to both the technological and affective dimension of commoning. Third: the role of care in commoning processes, the need to care critically, to care with and for each other, and also to care for the machinic and natural environment. The fourth aspect is the role of imagination: to common is always connected to imaginaries of a different world, of different infrastructures, and different relationships.

The next two days the research group was working in the plenary and smaller groups on topics of infrastructure. The introductions of the participants’ projects showed again a wide variety of practises of working with infrastructures: activist work with communities, artist run organisation developing their own infrastructure for their formats, alternative education initiatives, publishing, housing cooperatives and neighbourhood networks, and a fundraising organisation working directly with communal government. Important points in the discussions were questions of scale, closely related to problems of sustainability, care and temporality. Another topic was the need for translations between different publics, needs, interests, agencies and institutions, which was named “promiscuous API” during the discussion. These topics were further developed in three groups around the topics of 1) desires / imaginations and symbolic dimensions, 2) sustainability and resilience, 3) limitations and temporality – how to end things?

Two inputs followed the group discussions: the first from Alessandro Ludovico, who talked about networks as distribution infrastructure from the point-of-view of a publisher, highlighting the importance of infrastructure as a site of diverse practices (from circulation, hacking, pirating, infiltration, to cooperation). The second input from theorist Lioudmila Voropai explored the relational dimensions of artistic practice in regard to institutional logic, which is often shaped by strategic political and economic discourses, and has a strong influence on artistic practices and self-understandings. In her talk, she developed a notion of aesthetics with a focus on institutions’ roles in top-down formulations of a new aesthetic paradigm, on the example of so-called “Medienkunst” (new media art). Both inputs touched upon the topic of institutions and their role as infrastructures for practices, but also desires.

After the two very intense days, it became apparent that despite the many differences in fields of practice, backgrounds, and approaches of the projects, all share an understanding that infrastructure and practices are co-constituting each other, and that this entanglement is a place for activists and/or artistic practices. This resonates some of the themes introduced by Goriunova in the first meeting. The concept of the commons is not a central reference for all of them, but especially the aspect of commoning proved to be a very fruitful concept for cross-disciplinary reflection.

Interviews conducted with participants

Forms of Ongoingness, with Femke Snelting and spideralex

The Micropolitics of Publishing, with Eva Weinmayr

Hybrid Spaces, with Panayotis Antoniadis

Ecosystems of Writing, with Michael Murtaugh

Crowd Benefits, with Mauricio O’Brian

Publishing as Commons Practice, with Alessandro Ludovico


Panayotis Antoniadis and Mazi & Nethood

Nethood

Nethood is a Zurich based non-proft organization working on and with communities, cooperations on tools and infrastructure for community-driven organization of living. Including incorporates housing, neighborhood organization, networking, exchange, and learning. Nethood is a partner of diverse interdisciplinary international projects.

It was founded in 2012 by Panayotis Antoniadis, Ileana Apostol, and Jens Martignoni.

Self-description:

Its [Nethood’s] current activities include the facilitation of information exchanges and collaborations between researchers, practitioners, activists, and citizens around its objectives; the participation in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, education, and action projects; and the development of Do-It-Yourself tools and methodologies for empowering local actors to build networked localities that can support each other without suppressing their differences.

The vision of NetHood is to plant seeds of collective awareness, critical listening, long-term thinking, social learning and refective action toward sustainable social life.

Mazi

Mazi is a research-initiative working on alternative technologies for communities, running from 2016 to 2018, in collaboration with University of Thessaly (GR). Its aim is to foster hybrid networking to empower local communities. It is conducting four pilot studies in Germany, Greece, the UK, and Switzerland. In this course, it developed the Mazi-Toolkit.

Self-description:

MAZI means “together” in Treek and the goal of MAZI is to provide technology and knowledge in order to:

  • empower those who are in physical proximity, to shape their hybrid urban space, together, according to the local environment and context.
  • generate location-based collective awareness as a basis for fostering social cohesion, conviviality, participation in decision-making processes, self-organization, knowledge sharing, and sustainable living
  • facilitate interdisciplinary interactions around the design of hybrid space and the role of ICTs in society. MAZI is working on alternative technology, what we call “Do-It-Yourself networking”, a combination of wireless technology, low-cost hardware, and free/libre/open-source software (FLOSS) applications, for building local networks, known as “community wireless networks”.
    By making this technology better understood, easily deployed, and configured based on a rich set of customization options and interdisciplinary knowledge, compiled as a toolkit, MAZI will enable citizens to build their own local networks for facilitating hybrid, virtual and physical, interactions, in ways that are respectful to their rights to privacy, freedom of expression and self-determination.
    MAZI takes the perspective of existing grassroots initiatives, whose goals are social and political in nature, and explores ways that DIY networking technologies can help pursue them.

Interview

Hybrid Spaces. Interview with Panayotis Antoniadis
conducted by Felix Stalder, 6 December 2018:

Openki

Openki is an open educational platform.

Openki exist since early 2015 under its current name, but it grew our of “schuel.ch” (founded in 2012), a calendar for self-learning courses and projects in the context of the “Autonome Schule Zurich” (an autonomos education initiative in Zurich). Among the inspirations for it was Sean Dockray’s project “public school” in Los Angeles, and, more generally, the democratic school movement around the Summerhill School (founded in 1921).

The name Openki refers to a fungus with massive biomass and rhizomatic structure. On a philosophical level, Openki sees itself as an alternative to the commonly known structure of the hierarchical tree of knowledge and ultimately replaces this model with a horizontal network of knowledge-exchange.

Openki is not only a platform, but also a community of self-learner and autonomous teachers/students that organizes local events, such as the openki Festival in 2018 in Zurich.

Self-description

Openki is an open education platform. Courses can be proposed, discussed, developed, organized and published. The focus is on the promotion of self- organization, the bringing together of people, groupings and initiatives, and ensure a barrier-free exchange of experiences and knowledge. The courses are accessible to all, regardless of their fnancial situation. The organization behind it is non-proft and Open Source.

Openki belongs to me, to you and to all who participate in it. The application is open source, is available under the TNU ATPG license and is therefore freely available for non-commercial use. Behind Openki is the collectively organized non-proft association “KOPF” (KursOrganisationsPlattForm), which has been developing Openki during the last year.

The software (current version in development since late 2014) and the main implementation is maintained by a loose collective of about 10 people, based mainly in Zurich.

Openki is based, mainly, on volunteer work. Courses are open to all, course fees (beyond costs for materials and rent) are suggested as donations, not conditions for access. The non-proft foundation KOPF accepts donations, as well as public and private (cultural/social) funding, for example, for the Openki Festival 2018.

Sources:

https://openki.net/
https://about.openki.net/

Further reading:

Do-it-yourself-Schule. Antikapitalistisches Lernen 2.0, in: WOZ Nr. 46/2017 vom 16.11.2017) https://www.woz.ch/1746/do-it-yourself-schule/antikapitalistisches-lernen-20

Goteo

Goteo is a crowdfunding platform centering on crowd benefits, based in Barcelona. Goteo supports projects that generate a collective return, not only private benefits. It is a tool for collective financing and works together also with municipal bodies (e.g. the City of Barcelona).

Goteo was founded in 2011 by Platoniq, an media design and arts group, focusing on democratic participation in the digital realm, based on Barcelona, active since 2001. Funding members are Olivier Schulbaum and Susana Noguero, Co-directors Cristina Moreno and Mauricio O’Brian.

Self description:

“Goteo is a platform for crowdfunding or collective financing (monetary contributions) and distributed collaboration (services, infrastructures, microtasks) for projects which, apart from giving individual rewards, also generate a collective return through fomenting the commons, open code and/or free knowledge. As a member of the network you can have one or various roles: presenting a project, co-funding, or collaborating on one.“

“Crowdfunding is a form of cooperation between a lot of people to gather a sum of money to help in the development of a specific project. Goteo is a new way, based on this model, to stimulate collaborative projects of an open and/or free nature. As an alternative or complement to financing from public administrations or private companies, Goteo reactivates the co-responsible role of civil society.”

Difference to other crowdfunding plattforms:

  • Commons, open and free: we promote projects working for the commons, open code, and/or free knowledge, putting the accent on the public mission and favoring free culture and social development.
  • Free and/or open licences: projects that wish to be co-funded with the help of Goteo must permit, through the use of licences, the copying, public communication, distribution, modification and/or use of part or all of each creation.
  • Collective return: Goteo seeks the social return of investments and for this reason apart from individual returns, the system is based on collective returns for the development of the commons.
  • Social investment market: We manage a feeder capital (Matchfunding > capital riego) with contributions from public and private institutions and businesses for co-responsible investment with a multiplying effect in projects that rely on the support of civil society.
  • Distributed collaboration: In Goteo, apart from monetary contributions, it is possible to collaborate through services, material resources, infrastructure, or by participating in specific microtasks needed for the development of projects.
  • Two crowdfunding rounds of 40+40 days: There are two cofunding rounds, each with a duration of 40 days. The frst is an “all or nothing” round for the minimum essential budget, while the second is for an optimum sum to carry out additional improvements.
  • Community of local nodes: Goteo is a community of communities, a network of local, independent, inter-coordinated nodes which serve to localise the digital, contextualising it.

Goteo is governed through the Goteo Foundation, a non-proft organization which unites all the agents committed to the development of the project, and which is in charge of managing a public-private social investment fund of Matchfunding.

Sources:
https://www.goteo.org
Goteo Fundation: http://fundacion.goteo.org
Platoniq: http://platoniq.net/en/

Interview

Crowd Benefits. Interview with Mauricio O’Brian
conducted by Felix Stalder, 15 September 2018

Femke Snelting

Femke Snelting works as artist and designer, developing projects at the intersection of design, feminism, and free software. In various constellations, she has been exploring how digital tools and practices might co-construct each other. She has been working on developing a Code of Conduct for LibreGraphics Meetings, addressing the need for shared values and problem handling strategies to foster diversity and inclusive culture in FLOSS communities.

She is member of Constant, a non-profit, artist-run association for art and media based in Brussels (since 2003). Since 1997, Constant generates performative publishing, curatorial processes, poetic software, experimental research and educational prototypes in local and international contexts.

With Jara Rocha she activates Possible Bodies, a collective research project that interrogates the concrete and at the same time fictional entities of “bodies” in the context of 3D tracking, modelling, and scanning. She co-initiated the design/research team Open Source Publishing (OSP) and formed De Geuzen, a foundation for multi-visual research, with Renée Turner and Riek Sijbring. Femke teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute (experimental publishing, Rotterdam) and is currently curator of the Research Centre at a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies, Brussels).

Sources:

https://monoskop.org/Femke_Snelting
http://snelting.domainepublic.net/

Further Reading:

Codes of Conducts. Transforming Shared Values into Daily Practice. In: Sollfrank, Cornelia (ed): The Beautiful Warriors. Technofeminist Praxis in the Twenty-First Century, London: Minor Compositions, 2019.
https://www.minorcompositions.info/?p=976

in german: Codes of Conducts – Gemeinsame Werte in alltägliche Praxis umsetzen. In: Sollfrank, Cornelia (Hg.): Die schönen Kriegerinnen. Technofeministische Praxis im 21. Jahrhundert. Wien: transversal texts, 2018
https://transversal.at/books/die-schonen-kriegerinnen

Interview

Forms of Ongoingness, Interview with Femke Snelting and spideralex
Conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, 16 September 2018

Michel Murtaugh and Active Archives

“An Active Archive is not a black box with a Download button, it is information reconfigured.“

Active Archives is an initiative founded by Constant (Brussels), in collaboration with Arteleku in 2006. It currently holds ongoing collaborations with Constant and e.r.g (Ecole de Recherche Graphique Brussels).

Active Archives are concerned with decentralizing the archive, with the importance of ownership of the infrastructure, the nessecity to include other media than text, promoting re-use of content, and rethinking taxonomies and classifcation of content.

Michael Murtaugh is a technologist based in Brussel. He is a member of Constant, association for arts and media, and a lecturer at Piet Zwart Institute, Institute for Experimental Publishing at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.

Self-description:

Active Archive aims at creating a free software platform to connect practices of library, media library, publications on paper was magazines, books, catalogues), productions of audio-visual objects, events, workshops, discursive productions, etc. Practices which can take place on line or in various geographical places, and which can be at various stages of visibility for reasons of rights of access or for reasons of research and privacy conditions.

The Active Archives project starts from the observation that most of the interesting cultural archives that have been developed over the last few years have taken advantage of those new facilities for instant publishing, but mostly in the form of websites that mirror regular information brochures, announcements and text- publishing. Often, they are conceived as “We” give information to “You”. Within Active Archives, we aim to set up multi-directional communication channels, and are interested in making information circulate back and forth. We would like to give material away and receive it transformed: enriched by different connections, contexts and contradictions.

Sources:

http://activearchives.org

“Archiving the Data-body: human and nonhuman agency in the documents of Kurenniemi”, with Teoff Cox, and Nicolas Malevé, in Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History, edited by Joasia Krysa and Jussi Parikka, MIT Press, 2015
Draft online: http://activearchives.org/wiki/Archiving_the_Data- body:_human_and_nonhuman_agency_in_the_documents_of_Kurenniemi

Webseite of Michael Murtaugh: http://automatist.org/

Interview

Ecosystems of Writing. Interview with Michael Murtaugh
Conducted by Shusha Niederberger, 15 September 2018

Spideralex and feminist infrastructures

Spideralex is a sociologist and holds a doctorate in social economy. She is the founder of the catalan cyberfeminist collective Donestech that explores the relation between gender and technologies developing action research, documentaries, and training. She was the coordinator of a four-year international program with the title “Gender and Technology Institute”, working with human rights defenders and women’s rights activists around the world on topics of privacy and security online, but also in the physical and psycho-social domain. She has edited two volumes on technical sovereignty initiatives.

She lives in the internet and sometimes can be met with her community in Catalunya.

https://legacy.gitbook.com/
@sobtec
https://donestech.net/
https://calafou.org

Interview

Forms of Ongoingness, Interview with Femke Snelting and spideralex
Conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, 16 September 2018

Feminist Server – Visibility and Functionality

Digital Infrastructure as a Common Project

Shusha Niederberger

Originally published in German as Feminist Server – Sichtbarkeit und Funktionalität. Digitale Infrastruktur als gemeinschaftliches Projekt, in Springerin 4/2019.

The discourse around digital commons focuses mainly on circulating resources and the communities forming around them. In specific artistic practices investigated in this text, another layer comes into focus: what began as an artistic project sometimes becomes infrastructure, and with that come new roles, dependencies, commitment and a lot of service work. Shusha Niederberger explores the often invisible layers of infrastructure in artistic and activist practices on feminist technologies.

Constant: “Are You Being Served? (notebooks)”, 2015, Constant, Cover-Illustration

Anthropologist Brian Larkin defines infrastructures as „matter that enable the movement of other matter“ (Larkin 2013) and it is just as true for water supply as it is for a web server. This stratification of infrastructure and circulation is visible in many of the projects studied in our research: shadow libraries, for example, enable the circulation of texts and other cultural resources. Circulating resources are in the center of the discourse about digital commons, extending from digital resources to the communities that have been forming around them, while practices associated with the infrastructure this circulation is based on remaining mostly unaddressed. And still, infrastructure is a crucial element in many of the projects we studied. What started as an artistic project became infrastructure, and with that come new roles, dependencies, obligations and a lot of service work.

The function of invisibility

Why is the infrastructural level invisible, even in commons discourse? The pioneer of Infrastructure Research, Susan Leigh Star, argued that a characteristic of infrastructure is its disappearance behind its own functionality (Star 1999). And yes, it is not necessary to understand how the water supply works in order to be able to fill a glass of water. Only in the failure or collapse of infrastructure does become visible what infrastructure is: a whole network of things, practices of maintenance, relationships that regulate its creation and access, and also relationships among people connected to all these levels.

In our research, the question of infrastructure has been raised by projects with a feminist background, especially in the work of Constant, an artist-run organization in Brussels. In 2013, Constant hosted a workshop called “Are you being served?” to which artists and activists were invited to reflect on servers and services and the relationships to technology articulated through them (Constant 2015). During that workshop, participants formulated the Feminist Server Manifesto, stating an alternative mode of relating to servers and services. The manifesto declares, among other things: A Feminist Server is “a situated technology. It has a sense of context and sees itself as part of an ecology of practices “[1]. Feminist servers – and this can easily be extended to digital infrastructure in general – are defined here as fundamentally relational, embedded in social structures, practices and relationships.

However, infrastructure is not only embedded in social structures but also serves as a structuring mechanism in itself (Wilson 2016). The invisibility of the relational nature of infrastructure supports its normative function. This point is key part of feminist epistemology, which emphasizes that invisibilities are constitutive for power relations (Harding 1987). And this means, that in order to challenge power relations embedded in infrastructures, invisibilities must be named. Star has used this methodological approach in anthropological infrastructure research, and she proposed to identify “the master voice of infrastructure” (Star 1999). And one of the master voices of digital infrastructure is the narrative (and expectation) of self-evident functionality. So, to be able to rely on infrastructure means its disappearance behind the functionality it provides. And it is important to point out again, that the invisibility of infrastructure does not primarily refer to its material dimensions, but includes all practices associated with its maintenance, as well as the relationships established with these practices.

Feminist Server

The manifesto addresses Feminist Servers as a “thinking tool” (Sollfrank: 2018), allowing us to think about our relationship to infrastructure, and offering a feminist critique of technology. Feminist activism has taken this critique into action, implementing specific Feminist Server as running servers for communities around the world. Feminist Servers emerged from the specific needs of women, non-binary persons and LGBTI people, who have, again and again, experienced that the Internet is not a safe space for them, that the large platforms dominating the Internet since the early 2000s do not protect their content, their concerns and needs – neither from attacks by other internet users nor from access by repressive states. Feminist Servers aim at implementing servers as “safer spaces”. And in doing so, Feminist Servers go further than other activist initiatives for alternative digital infrastructures, that primarily aim at independence from commercial interests: Feminist Servers take into account the ideological dimension of infrastructure.

Currently, there exist diverse Feminist Servers, especially in Europe and Latin America (Spideralex 2020). They are operated and maintained by their users themselves, however seamless functionality is not their declared goal. As another point in the manifesto declares: “Feminist Servers avoids efficiency, ease of use, scalability and immediacy, as these can be traps.” Instead of walking through the door of seamless functionality into the trap of normative invisibility of infrastructure again, the Feminist Server activists want to make their servers a place that can be inhabited, that is: a place of shared practice.

Feminist Servers are therefore fragile, being transparent in regard to the conditions of production of running services. “A server is a service. This implies work and care, and it is illusory to think that it can always be free or that it can always be there for you, if you know the conditions necessary for a service to work,” says Spideralex in the interview with Claire Richard (Richard 2019). That the refusal to reproduce the invisibility of infrastructure goes at the expense of functionality, is, from a feminist perspective, not coincidence but intention. It allows the Feminist Servers to not become invisible again as infrastructure, but to remain a decidedly communal project.

The activists are aware of this tension. The last point in the manifesto says: “She tries very hard not to apologize when she is sometimes unavailable” [The Feminist Server is deliberately gendered as female in the manifesto, author’s note]. Spideralex speaks of this tension as an exchange: “You lose, and you gain other dimensions. And everything depends […] on the needs of the people who inhabit the respective server.” (Sollfrank 2018) What is lost is the self-evident functionality and efficiency of infrastructure together with its normative function, but in exchange, gained is a self-determined relationship to technology, a space to inhabit.

Commoning

The circulation of digital goods is based on a digital infrastructure that is not self-preserving or self-reproducing. The feminist approach to technology of the Feminist Server Manifesto and also Feminist Server activism makes this invisible level accessible, hitherto neglected by the commons discourse.[2] By naming the connections, practices and relationships hidden by functionality, they can be addressed as part of commoning practices. And by questioning the primacy of functionality and efficiency, alternative relationships to technology communities may choose to become visible. “Feminist technology is incomplete if one does not go through all the layers”, as Spideralex said (Sollfrank: 2018). In other words, a feminist perspective allows not only to extend the commons discourse about digital technology, by putting the different practices connected by digital technologies into relationships, but it also allows these relationships to be changed.

References:

Constant. Are You Being Served? (notebooks), edited by Anne Laforet, Marloes de Valk, Madeleine Aktypi, An Mertens, Femke Snelting, Michaela Lakova, Reni Höfmuller, Brussels: Constant, 2015. https://areyoubeingserved.constantvzw.org/

Federici, Silvia. ‘Feminism and the Politics of the Commons’. In Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States, edited by Hughes/Peace/Van Meter, Oakland, California: AK Press, 2010.

Harding, Sandra. ‘Introduction. Is There a Feminist Methodology?’. In Feminism & Methodology, edited by Sandra Harding, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Larkin, Brian. Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure, Annual Review of Anthropology, 42, 2013, pp. 327-43.

Richard, Claire. Pas d’Internet féministe sans serveurs féministes. Entretien avec Spideralex, Panthère Premiere, 4/2019.

Spideralex. ‘Creating New Worlds – With Cyberfeminist Ideas and Practices’. In: The Beautiful Warriors. Technofeminist Praxis in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Cornelia Sollfrank, Colchester / New York / Port Watson: Minor Compositions, 2020, p. 52.

Sollfrank, Cornelia. Forms of Ongoingness, Cornelia Sollfrank in conversation with Femke Snelting and Spideralex, 2018, http://creatingcommons.zhdk.ch/forms-of-ongoingness/.

Star, Susan Leigh. The Ethnography of Infrastructure, The American Behavioral Scientist, 1999, Vol. 43 (3), pp. 377-391.

transhackfeminist!. ‘[version 0.1] A feminist server …. constantvzw’. Accessed December 3, 2019. https://transhackfeminist.noblogs.org/post/2014/06/03/version-0-1-a-feminist-server-constantvzw/

Wilson, Ara. The Infrastructure of Intimacy. Signs, 2016, Vol. 41 (2), p. 247-280.


[1] different perspective on the history of Feminist Servers offer https://alexandria.anarchaserver.org/index.php/History_of_Anarchaserver_and_Feminists_Servers_visit_this_section and Femke Snelting; http://www.newcriticals.com/exquisite-corpse/page-8.

[2] This has also been the critique of Silvia Federici, with which she – unlike the Feminist Server activists – fundamentally rejects the possibilities of digital technology for the commons alltogether (Federici 2010).

Film as digital object

Sebastian Lütgert in conversation with Cornelia Lund.

27 September 2019
panke.gallery Berlin

When films enter the database 0xDB(1) and its underlying software pan.do/ra(2), they become digital objects. As such, they form part of a network of interrelated elements that constitute the archival environment and, at the same time, point beyond it. How does this new environment affect our way of dealing with moving images? How does it affect the films and their aesthetics to be embedded in a digital framework of paratextual elements? And how do the films, in turn, influence this framework? What does it mean when the films are shown in the context of a Pirate Cinema(3) screening? And ultimately: how does this change not only the way we see the films, but also cinema itself?
(1) https://0xdb.org (2) https://pan.do/ra (3) https://piratecinema.org

Sebastian Lütgert is an artist, programmer, and writer. He is (together with Jan Gerber) the founder of experimental movie database 0XDB and the software behind it (pan.do/ra). He has co-initiated other initiatives like Pirate Cinema Berlin, Bootlab and texts.com.

Cornelia Lund is an art, film and media theorist and curator living in Berlin. She is the co-director of fluctuating images, a platform for media art and design with a focus on audiovisual artistic production. She has been teaching design theory at various universities.

 
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Institutional Practice: Interview with Peter Westenberg

Peter Westenberg is an artist and a member of Constant, an artist-run organization in Brussels, active in art and technology.

In this interview, Peter discusses the possibilities of licensing in artistic contexts to think about the future context of one’s work. He explains the format of situations, a way of working collaboratively across disciplines Constant has been developing over the years. How do institutional practices like organizing events and developing formats relate to artistic practice and aesthetics? And how can that practice be situated in the discourse about the commons?

Interview conducted by Felix Stalder, 4 March 2018, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

 
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Hybrid Spaces. Interview with Panayotis Antoniadis

Panayotis Antoniadis is one of the founders of NetHood, a non-profit organization based in Zurich concerned with bridging the digital and the physical space. NetHood is active in neighborhood projects, communal housing projects, and alternative currency projects. In this interview, Panayotis talks about the work of Nethood, Mazi Toolkit and how digital infrastructure can help create empowering hybrid spaces in neighborhoods.

Interview conducted by Felix Stalder, December 6, 2018, ZHDK – Zurich University of the Arts.

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

Caring for the Public Library, Interview with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak

Marcell Mars (researcher and programmer) & Tomislav Medak (philosopher) work together on the project Memory of the World. They use the concept of the public library as a narrative device to address questions of general access to knowledge and how this has shifted in the digital age. As everyone has the tools to build their own library, they advocate for a new form of a public library, which consists of interconnected private libraries.

This mobilization of individual actors would help to generate a necessary discourse on the limiting aspects of intellectual property. Apart from their work on creating technical infrastructure for their project, they organize digitization campaigns for endangered knowledges, develop tools for sharing books and discursive formats such as exhibitions and texts.

Interview conducted by Felix Stalder, October 22 2017, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

Expanding Cinema, Interview with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber

Sebastian Lütgert & Jan Gerber are two artists and programmers who developed the movie database 0xdb and its underlying software pan.do/ra. The more than 15,000 films in the database are objects that cover films hard to find online. 0xbd is not just a database for films but treats film as a veritable digital object, which allows new ways of dealing with films.

The project offers a number of special features such as the visualization of the timeline, time-based annotations, additional information and interlinking with other objects and information, and allows for in-depth search. The project stands in the tradition of autonomous archives and other critical media practices and has collaborated with artists and political activists worldwide. The software, as well as the movies, are available for free.

Interview conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, October 22, 2017, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

Commoning Infrastructures. Promises, challenges, and the role of art. Lecture by Daphne Dragona

Lecture by Daphne Dragona, Thursday 13.09.2018, at HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel)

Cultural scientist and curator Daphne Dragona talks about alternative community-based network systems and the role art can play in their development.

Practices of commoning are driven by affect, a sense of new possibilities and a desire to respond to existing asymmetries of power. In the case of network infrastructures, asymmetries usually refer to issues of access, as well as to the surveillance and commodification of circulating information. Wishing to oppose the structures of the sovereign corporate systems of communication, different examples of alternative networking have emerged in the last two decades. Initiated and built by artists, activists, and other network practitioners, these infrastructures manifest a desire for accessible, user-owned and controlled systems, that respect the needs of different territories, communities and users.

What can we learn from the recent history of alternative and radical networking? What are the promises and challenges of the commoning of infrastructures in times of increasing socio-politcal divides and conflicts? When does commoning need to be readdressed and which forms of learning and doing might be of help? Turning to examples coming from the fields of art, this presentation will examine how the poetics and imaginaries of counter-infrastructures can assist in re-imagining the way we relate to each other and to the world itself.

Daphne Dragona is a Berlin-based theorist and curator. Since 2015 she has been part of the curatorial team of transmediale festival. She has worked with different institutions for exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other events. Dragona has been working in the field of digital and urban commons since 2009, having curated Esse Nosse Posse: Common Wealth for Common People (EMST 2009), Mapping the Commons, Athens (EMST 2010), Off-the-cloud zone (Transmediale, 2016) and “… An Archaeology of Silence in the Digital Age”, solo exhibition of Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud (Aksioma, 2017). She holds a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Athens.

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

monoskop

Monoskop is a wiki for collaborative studies of the arts, media and humanities.

General Description

Monoskop is a wiki, blog and a repository aggregating, documenting and mapping works, artists and intiatives related to the avant-gardes, media arts and theory and activism. Initially it focused on Eastern and Central Europe.

Built on a Wiki that everyone can contribute to and scrupulously curated by its spiritus movens Dušan Barok, it provides both an exhaustive, indexical overview of those fields and provides digital access to rare historic finds.

In parallel to the wiki, Monoskop maintains a blog repository featuring daily releases of books, journals or other printed archival material, some freshly digitized by Monoskop and some contributed by the users, authors and publishers.

Sources:
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/monoskop/
https://monoskop.org

Interview

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, Interview with Dušan Barok
Conducted by Felix Stalder, 22 October 2017

memory of the world

General description:

Memory of the World is a network of interconnected shadow libraries, each maintained locally and independently from the others. They are integrated through a custom-made extension (named “let’s share books“) for “Calibre” an open source software for managing e-books. Calibre has a large and stable user base.

It’s intended to work both a practical resource, but also use the model of the public library was a way to frame a discussion about a post-IP cultural order.

Self-description/ objective:

The public library is:
– free access to books for every member of society
– library catalog
– librarian

With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a librarian. When everyone is librarian, library is everywhere.

memoryoftheworld.org/

Interview

Caring for the Public Library, Interview with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak
Conducted by Felix Stalder, 22 October 2017

0xdb

0xDB is an experimental – and to some degree imaginary – movie database. It is intended to help us rethink the future of cinema on the Internet, just as it tries to push the boundaries of what we understand as “web applications”. What 0xDB proposes is an entirely new approach to visualizing and navigating moving images, and we hope that it can serve as a point of reference for individuals and institutions who are dealing with large collections of films.

0xDB uses a variety of publicly accessible resources, like search engines and peer-to-peer networks, to automatically collect information about, and actual images and sound from, a steadily growing number of movies. At its core, it provides full text search within subtitled films and instant video previews of search results, while “timelines” – visual fingerprints of moving images – allow for spatial orientation and travel.”

https://0xdb.org

Interview

Expanding Cinema, Interview with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber
Conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, 22 October 2017

Olga Goriunova: Next few years of art and commons: on idiosyncratic learners and radical lurkers

Cultural theorist, philosopher, and curator Olga Goriunova focus in her talk on the radical differences between the first 15 years of the World Wide Web (1990 -2005) and the next 15. To speak about artist-run platforms (such as the hub for software art, runme.org) and other experimental projects thriving in these first 15 years, I developed the term “organizational aesthetics”, which was concerned with specific forms of artistic and cultural movements within technological networks.

Typical for such projects was that they incorporate many different, flexible roles through which they are developed and maintained, and which provide models of contribution and use. These roles reflect a specific form of knowledge, and they coalesce around certain figures: learners and lurkers, to start with. (The term lurker comes from online forum culture and stands for a kind of participation, where the lurker is part of the forum, but not actively contributing to. The lurker is a reader who could but chooses not to, write.) With time, the classical knowledge of the learner gave way to the local knowledge of the lurker. 

Now, the question is, what kind of knowledge – and with it: what kind of technology – will be created and sustained in the next 15 years? Are projects of at the intersection of the art and commons (that is, freely available resources produced and maintained by a community) developing new figures and with them, new infrastructural aesthetics?

Dr. Olga Goriunova (1977, Ulan-Ude, UdSSR) is a cultural theorist, philosopher, and curator with a focus on digital art and culture. She is Reader and Director of Graduate Research at Royal Holloway University London.

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.